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The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down Correctly

Many people go out for a run or start a pickup game of basketball without understanding the importance of warming up and cooling down correctly. Participating in a regular warm-up routine prior to playing a game, running, exercising or engaging in any high-intensity activity in crucial to preventing serious injuries. Some of these injuries include:

  • Strains and sprains
  • Shin splints
  • Knee injuries
  • Tendinitis
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures

Physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and athletic trainers see these types of injuries on a regular basis. One main goal besides trying to return an athlete to their prior level of function also involves emphasizing the importance of incorporating easy exercise routines into their regular day-to-day activities. Understanding the benefits of these workouts can help people understand why it is so important.

During a warm-up, there is no need to overexert your body. Keep the warm-up light and easy, but you should work hard enough to start perspiring lightly.

Some of the benefits of warming up prior to a workout include:

  • Increase in body temperature
    • This allows your blood to release oxygen at a higher temperature
  • Increase muscle temperature
    • Allows more blood and oxygen to reach your muscles, leading to better overall performance
  • Dilation of your blood vessels
    • Warming up allows capillaries to open, allowing about 70 percent of blood flow to the skeletal muscles
  • Improves flexibility
    • Allows your muscles work to their full potential
  • Decreases joint stiffness
    • Joints become lubricated with fluid to allow for better mobility

The warm-ups can vary depending on the activity. For example, before doing any running or a cardiovascular routine, it is important to warm up with a slowly-paced aerobic activity. If your main focus is strength training, warm up with a light cardio activity, such as a light jog on the treadmill or a 10-minute ride on a stationary bike.

After the warm-up is completed, try to loosen up the muscles by properly stretching. You want to focus in on the muscles that you will be using the most during your specific sport or activity. Remember to hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds to increase muscle extensibility, repeated each one two to three times.

Once you are finished with your workout or sport, remember to cool down. Cooling down can prevent your blood pressure and heart rate from dropping too rapidly. Performing a light jog around a track or leveled surface can help decrease soreness and prevent injuries from developing. It is particularly important to keep in mind that after performing a high-intensity workout, the body releases lactic acid. Over time, lactic acid buildup in your muscles can lead to soreness. Cooling down helps the body get rid of lactic acid buildup, decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

Keep in mind to add stretches after your cool down to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness. A cool down can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, such as light jogging and slowing to a walking pace following weightlifting or a long run.

Below is a break down of how to add warm-ups and cool downs to your routine.

Warm-up >> Workout >> Cool Down

OR

Warm-up >> Stretch >> Workout >> Cool Down >> Stretch

If you or anyone you know has suffered a strain, sprain or any overuse injury, please call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center at 703-450-4300 today to schedule an appointment. No doctor’s note is necessary to begin your road to recovery in physical therapy!

Don’t let pain limit you. We care. We listen. We get RESULTS!